Week in wearable tech: Google Glass EE and the importance of timing

A look back at the week that was
The week in wearable tech

Let's talk about timing. When it comes to innovations like wearable tech, virtual and augmented reality, move too soon and you risk your potential customers not being ready for what you're pitching. Move too late and you look like a copycat. Apple is still the master at this - just look at the Apple Watch - there were dozens of high profile smartwatch launches before it.

There's probably no other device that was so penalised for launching early as the Google Glass Explorer Edition. And to be fair to Google, it didn't launch as a mainstream gadget in 2013 or really the following year. It was always designed to be an "open beta" experiment in AR. Still, it was treated like a failed product.

Which brings us to the now official Google Glass Enterprise Edition.

As promised back in 2015, Google Glass is back with a bang for 2017. That is, if you work in a factory or hospital, let's say. The clue is in the name - Enterprise Edition - as the lighter, redesigned glasses are programmed with one specific application, personalised to the wearer and their task.

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There's a lot of interesting stuff in here for the future of AR glasses, though. Clients, including Boeing, Volkswagen and GE, are paying $,1300+ per pair. The device has a Glass Pod, which houses all the electronics, and this can be swapped in and out of prescription frames or safety goggles. Battery life is improved as is Wi-Fi speed and reliability. Plus the 8MP camera now features a red light to show when it's recording, helpful to allay privacy fears.

As for a follow up to the Explorer Edition, on limited or general sale to the public, we return to the question of timing. All Alphabet is saying is that "the Glass team is back at X". I reckon Google is going to bide its time until Snap or Apple, perhaps, has shown its cards in augmented/mixed reality wearables. It's not really in its interests to walk out to the end of the diving board, alone, again.

Google is also one of the biggest investors in Florida MR startup Magic Leap which so far has talked the entertainment and productivity talk that you'd expect from a product that is shooting for the mainstream.

Week in wearable tech: Google Glass EE and the importance of timing

Intel steps back

Intel has tried to get into the next big thing a number of times and failed at a few, most notably powering smartphones. With wearable tech, it was plenty early enough, but bet too hard on startups and one-off collaborations. Now the word from anonymous sources is that it is ditching its fitness tracker teams and transforming its New Technologies Group into an augmented reality hub, possibly based on its "merged reality" reference device Project Alloy.

There's no reason to think Intel won't power smartwatches - its SoCs are inside the two Tag Heuer Connecteds and the New Balance RunIQ. If the news is confirmed, it throws up a lot of questions - what about the Oakley Radar Pace? And wait, wasn't Intel looking to buy Moov? As for AR, with Qualcomm also an investor in Magic Leap, Intel needs to get some early wins in late 2017.

Fitbit needs to finalise its app store - like now

We said Apple was late to launch a full-blooded, apps and all smartwatch. Well Fitbit is later - even Louis Vuitton beat it to the punch with the Tambour Horizon collection, which Mike got his hands on this week.

James Park recently responded to reports that the app store is delayed - he says it's "on track", so let's take his word for it. We're expecting a Fitbit smartwatch launch in the fall, perhaps around IFA in September and now we know there will be no 4G connectivity. Crucial is getting the right developers onboard - both big names and indie creators - so Fitbit will be working against the clock to secure these in time for launch. Otherwise, we could have a damp squib on our hands. Hurry, hurry. For now, we've put together a list of the apps we want to see on Fitbit's smartwatch.

I had my own time trial this weekend, as part of the team's epic Race to the Stones challenge. You can read how we all got on - including who made it to 100km - in this week's instalment of our Race to the Stones diary. Now, I opted to do the 50km walk, on my own for most of it. I was allocated a Fitbit Alta HR to wear while the boys wore running watches. My main issue was whether I could make it to the 50km line by 11pm, and I just about scooted (shuffled) through at the end, with three minutes to spare. It was emotional.

TAGGEDWearables

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